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The Crack Magazine


All This And An Anxious Owl

Northern Stage: “Out on the Toon – Neighbourhood Events”.

As I’m writing this, the planned easing of social restrictions in England is once again shuffling through the “2 steps forward, 3 steps back” tango, and I’m brooding on my increasingly tenuous grasp of the concept “normal”. No, I don’t think we’ll ever go back to that unnegotiated relationship with social life that we once took for granted, and maybe the trick will not be to establish the new normal but to embrace the exceptional. Back in autumn 2020 (great timing) Natalie Ibu was appointed new artistic director at Northern Stage, and the energy with which she’s belted into a fresh season of productions designed to grasp and infiltrate the fluctuating moment is a beacon for local theatre.

Much as we love that playhouse environment, Northern Stage has always been about more than bums on seats, so now you can park ‘em somewhere closer to home as theatre goes out to meet its audience. On the steps or the bridge or the beach, in the park or via the comfort of your own device of choice, you can earwig on other folks’ responses to our current circumstances, expressing common anxieties via uncommon voices and movement, old tales re-told and an owl called Orville. Quite apart from responding sympathetically to issues of indoor distancing by taking productions outdoors, some of these small-scale, directly encountered pieces should demystify the theatrical experience for first-timers and children. When it’s right in front of you, connections to performance can be made in a relaxed and instinctive way, whetting appetites and fuelling imaginations.

Too many locations and dates to list here, but full details of what’s available where and when can be found at the link below. Personally I think a trip to Bill Quay Farm on June 23rd is in order. I may not be in the target age-group of 3 – 5, but the promise that “Orville” deals gently with anxiety in the company of a puppet owl sounds like something it would do me good to encounter.